Visiting the straits during raptor migration is always a highlight of any trip to Cadiz province in spring/autumn. This year I was lucky to witness a particularly good passage of Short-toed Eagles at Cazalla. The eagles were constantly pushing across from Africa generally in dribs and drabs but also sometimes in groups of twenty odd. It’s hard to keep count in such circumstances but I probably saw c1,000 birds (although the official Migres count that day was 1,500+). There were also a few Egyptian Vultures and ubiquitous patrolling Griffons but, surprisingly, hardly any Black Kites. Good though the Cazalla watchpoint is, I often prefer dropping down to the coast at nearby Punta Camorro (to get there from Cazalla you have to drive down towards Tarifa round a roundabout and then back the way you came - see map).
The scrub and bushes here always hold the promise of small migrants (I've had Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Woodchat Shrike, Wryneck, etc here in the past) whilst the sea is worth scanning for shearwaters, gulls (although neither put in an appearance this time around) and even whales. I’ve redrawn and made minor alterations to the map of the area and my description in my notes. This includes slightly treatment of two tracks, one running along the coast (d) and the other heading up towards the coastguard station (e). The first passes by some good cover and should take you all the way to Algeciras if you’re determined (or more likely have a bike). The second takes you past the coastguards up to an old military battery which some may find of interest. Beyond the decommissioned guns there’s a small hill regularly used by Migres counters but, unfortunately, this is in a restricted military area and you need a permit to go beyond the guns. This pity, as it has better views along the coast than anywhere else. I’ve continued to mark the old watchpoint on my map (a) despite being little used as the track here allows you to loop round back into Tarifa or back down to (b).
Guadalmesi is at the mouth of the valley that drops away from the popular Mirador del Estrecho on the main road. The small stream and cover on the coast here looks ideal for attracting passerine migrants and the old medieval tower nearby adds a dash of romance. However, access to this area has often been in doubt since, like much of this coastline, it’s in a restricted military area and both cars & pedestrians have been stopped by the military and turned back. However, I was informed by friends that the army has now returned to their old laissez-faire approach and allows access (more de facto than de jure, I suspect). The military seem fickle about such things and may yet return to restricting access so use at your own risk.
About me ...
Hi I'm John Cantelo. I've been birding seriously since the 1960s when I met up with some like minded folks (all of us are still birding!) at Taunton's School in Southampton. I have lived in Kent , where I taught History and Sociology, since the late 1970s. In that time I've served on the committees of both my local RSPB group and the county ornithological society (KOS). I have also worked as a part-time field teacher for the RSPB at Dungeness. Having retired I now spend as much time as possible in Alcala de los Gazules in SW Spain. When I'm not birding I edit books for the Crossbill Guides series.